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October Streaming

With the Halloween only a few weeks away, we’ve reached the time of year where the horror genre takes center stage. Although a peek at the calendar will confirm that it is 2019, based on two recent Blu-ray releases, it feels more like we’re partying like its 1989. Proving once again that the allure of nostalgia is seemingly impossible for studios to ignore, two cheesy cinematic staples got the modern reboot treatment, and are primed for the picking if you’re looking for a Hollywood horror.

Since its initial release in 1989, CHILD’S PLAY has remained an oddly endearing pop-culture staple. It was the type of movie that found a way to worm its way into the public consciousness, and whether people had actually seen it or not, everyone knew who Chucky was. Over the ensuing 30 years, there were a number of lackluster sequels, but even these found enough of a following to keep the maniacal monster relevant.

Rather than release another straight-to-streaming installment (although, admittedly, this connotation no longer carries the same stigma that it used to) CHILD’S PLAY received the reboot treatment, and the results were pleasantly surprising. Featuring a cast that includes the delightful Aubrey Plaza, the hilarious Brian Tyree Henry and the legendary Mark Hamill as the new voice of Chucky, this modern take definitely had a BLACK MIRROR feel to it. Constructed in the technological age, Chucky is now a walking and talking incarnation of Alexa who can be digitally connected to every facet of your life. Uploaded into the cloud, he is a much creepier version of BLACK MIRROR’s Ashley O. Though he has a set of strict safety features that prohibits him from learning the concepts of rage and violence, when these features are disabled, he instantly becomes a psychopath in training. Such is the case with Andy’s (Gabriel Bateman) refurbished Chucky, who starts as a lovable pal to the lonely teen, and ends up becoming the same homicidal doll that has terrorized audiences for decades.

This modern take on the familiar story was more entertaining than I expected, though not exactly a “must-see” by any stretch of the imagination. Hamill is delightfully demonic, and the rest of the cast certainly embraces the undeniable corniness of the whole venture, but that’s always been the overriding theme of the franchise. Like its predecessors, it never takes itself too seriously, and director Lars Klevberg and crew have fun along the way. This, more than anything else, is the saving grace of the production. By throwing in a few laughs, a couple of nods to its forbearers, and some seriously demented violence along the way, it does just enough to keep its audience engaged, but unlikely to remain with them in the same way that the original did.

While failing to have the same illustrious cinematic longevity as CHILD’S PLAY, 1988’S PET SEMETARY not only scarred a generation of impressionable youth who tracked down a VHS copy of the film, but also successfully inspired a sequel that easily ranks amongst the all-time worst. Stephen King is as hot of a commodity now as he has ever been (see my review of IT CHAPTER 2), as are reboots, so revisiting the SEMETARY does make a lot of sense.

Like the original, Louis Creed (Jason Clarke), his wife (Amy Seimetz) and two children Ellie (Jete Laurence) and Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie) have left the big city and have planted roots miles away from suburbia. They own a huge piece of land, and have a wonderful neighbor in the form of lovable Jud (the always great John Lithgow) who is always there to lend a hand and share a meal. Unfortunately, for both felines and kids, the property is located on a very busy road in which tanker trucks break the land-speed barrier every time they drive by.

Whereas CHILD’S PLAY toyed with Chucky’s origins and transformed him into a psychotic Siri, PET SEMETARY alters the story itself in a few unexpected ways that allows the film to stand on its own merits. By doing so, it also was a departure from what unfolded within the pages of King’s novel. Though this may have been a gamble, King was asked in an interview for Entertainment Weekly if he liked the changes, and he admitted that he did. As a viewer, and a fan of Mr. King, I did as well. It stuck true to the story itself, while opening the door for further exploration of the themes that are central to the twisted tale. The question of the limitations and boundaries of familial bonds are explored with a disturbing intensity, and the consequences of these impossible decisions have unfathomably horrific ramifications that unfold in shockingly brutal ways. Much like the 1989 version, this one is unsettling on various levels, and provides a solid jump-scare or two along the way.

CHILD’S PLAY- C+

PET SEMETARY- B-

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.